The bathroom had to have been made for a Hobbit, I thought in a slight panic as I closed the door on the seriously itsy bitsy space that would be the source of much laughter in the coming days. “It’s a Hobbit-sized bathroom,” I called to my husband who was busy programming a GPS that gave us instructions in a brightly clipped English accent. Of course, Hobbits and the Lord of the Rings were on my mind. We were in Christchurch, doing a perfect driving tour of New Zealand, land of Hobbits.
Road trip vacations are quite popular in New Zealand, so that’s how we decided to explore the country’s South Island in celebration of my husband’s birthday. From Christchurch to Milford Sound, we motored along for eight days on the left hand side of the road like we knew what we were doing. Our trip was made easier by three things I would recommend for anyone attempting a van vacation in the land of Hobbits.
The first is Maui New Zealand, a rental agency for cars and camper vans with locations in Christchurch, Auckland and Queenstown. We appreciated the 30 minute orientation service on New Zealand roads, laws and resources long before they gave us the keys to our vehicle. The second resource was the GPS unit that was well worth the additional price. Although the roads on New Zealand’s South Island are not at all difficult to navigate, it was nice to have a back-up to our map. Plus, when passing points of interest, the GPS voice piped up with little tidbits and stories that provided a wonderful insight to the local culture.
How to Pack
I highly advise traveling to New Zealand with duffel bags since you can stow them with ease. Our camper van was equipped with bath facilities, so pack some old towels and washcloths from home. Then, when the trip is over, just leave them behind! I saved a bit of money by bringing along Ziplock bags of laundry detergent. Also bring flip flops and a little tote bag of shampoo, soap and such for the shower.
Where to Go
- We headed north out of Christchurch to Hamner Hot Springs — a great first day’s drive. You must explore Hamner Hot Springs and the surrounding area.
- Then cross the Lewis Pass to the Island’s west coast and travel along Coastal Highway 6, which is considered one of the top scenic coastal roads in the world.
- Taking this path allows you to see colonies of fur seals on the Pancake Rocks at Parapoa National Park.
- Stop in the town of Wanaka and splash in the cool lake. Take a flight seeing tour from the little airport outside of town. This is the area where Peter Jackson shot many scenes for Lord of the Rings and your pilot can point that out. A great place to stay is the Wanaka Springs Lodge, which has great service and very comfortable rooms.
Photo by Tom Hall
- Mount Cook in the Aoraki National Park, at 12,316 feet, is the highest point in New Zealand.
- Lake Te Aunu and the Glowworm Caves is a good place for a rafting trip and zip lining as well.
Photo by Geee Kay
We spent eight days and 1,500 miles in our little van, loving every minute and mile of it. We won’t wait until another big birthday ending in zero before we do something so fun again!
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